The Washington and Lee Generals finished 2nd in the NCAA Southeast Region and qualified three wrestlers for the NCAA Championships, to be held on March 13-14 in Cedar Rapids, IA. The Generals got off to a fast start and finished with 130 points, holding off host Messiah (123.5 pts). Eight Generals placed in the top 8, with Ryan Luth (SO 157) and Rexx Hallyburton (SR 184) winning regional championships. Senior Shane Conners (165) scored a takedown with less than 10 seconds remain in regulation to secure a dramatic come from behind victory in the consolation finals, securing himself a ticket to the NCAA championships.
The Generals set numerous records during the weekend. It was their best ever finish at a regional tournament since the regional system was instituted in 2013. The previous best finish – last year – was 6th place. In addition, the Generals haven’t sent 3 wrestlers to the National Tournament since 1978- that’s 42 years! Finally, the Generals’ 8 placers are the most they have ever placed at a NCAA Regional. The improvement over last year’s result is dramatic. Whereas last year, the Generals finished in 6th place with 82.5 team points, this year the Generals scored 47.5 more points and had two more national qualifiers. We were only surpassed by Stevens, a new addition to the region, and defeated Messiah in their home gym, who had won the even the previous two years.
Key’s to the Generals awesome team performance were the bonus points scored throughout the two day event. Out of 31 tournament wins, 22 came by bonus points, included 8 pins. For example, Ryan Luth had a big pin only 2 minutes into his semifinal match. Bryce Crew was losing in the quarterfinals when he threw his opponent to his back and pinned him. Alex Winant was in a tough match in the consolation bracket, in danger of being knocked out of the tournament. Then, in a span of about 7 seconds, he stood up from bottom and threw his opponent to his back, securing the fall just before the end of the period. In Riley’s quarterfinal match, we was down 1-0 late in the second period before hitting a beautiful inside trip and pinning his opponent with just a second left in the period!
125 Riley Parker (First Year)
Riley came within inches of earning himself a trip to the regional finals and national tournament. He lost a heartbreaking 16-13 decision in the 125 semi-finals, a match in which he had his opponent on his back multiple times. He would go on to finish 5th- still an excellent result for his first year, but not what he was hoping for. He finishes the season with a 25-13 record (12 pins)
133 Chaz Cunningham (Sophomore)
Chaz battled back to the 3rd place match after suffering a quarterfinal defeat to returning All-American Levi Englman of Ferrum. However, he fell to the same opponent 2-0 and finished in 4th. In a season shortened by injury Chaz finished 19-7 and was the Centennial Conference Tournament Runner-Up.
141 Bryce Crew (Junior)
Bryce Crew won a thrilling quarterfinal match on Friday evening by throwing McDaniel’s Ryker Eckenbarger to his back and pinning him. It was his first win over the McDaniel opponent in three attempts this season. However, in the semifinals on Saturday morning Bryce fell to the #1 ranked wrestler in the nation and finished in 6th place. Bryce has continued his pinning ways- 15 out of his 23 wins on the season have come by fall!
149 Alex Winant (First Year)
Alex came into the regional tournament as the only unseeded General, yet still managed to place. He won 2 exciting matches on Friday afternoon to propel himself into the top 8. Alex finishes his first season as a General with a 22-20 record.
157 lbs Ryan Luth (Sophomore)
Ryan dominated the field, securing tech falls in his first two matches, then silencing the Messiah crowd with a first period pin of his Messiah opponent in the semifinals. In the finals, Luth dismantled his opponent from Stevens, putting an exclamation point on his tournament. He has now won back to back championship events – the Centennial Conference and the NCAA Southeast Regional. He is 24-2 on the season with 17 wins coming by bonus points (5 falls, 8 tech falls, and 4 major decisions).
165 Shane Conners (Senior)
Shane had an amazing tournament, avenging a loss from earlier in the season and qualifying for the NCAA Championships for the first time in his career. He first smashed Messiah’s Pangle, who had forced Shane to injury default in the finals of the Jim Crytzer Invite. Then, after a setback in the semifinals, Shane fought his way back to the 3rd place match and defeated Washington & Jefferson’s Jared Walker, who had beat him 10-1 back in early November during the Generals first competition of the season. The moment was especially sweet because Shane had lost in the 3rd place match the previous two seasons. His current season record is 23-7, which includes wins over two opponents ranked in the top 10.
174 Nick Konovalchik (Junior)
Wrestling at 174 lbs for only the second time this season, Nick stepped up in a big way, just as he had been doing all season. He finished in 5th, losing two tight matches to tough opponents. After starting the season at 157 and filling in for Ryan, and then moving up to 165 and filling in for Shane, Nick wrestled at 174 in the Conference tournament and Regional tournament, placing at both events! In what has been a breakout season for him, Nick finishes the season with a 22-13 record.
184 Rexx Hallyburton (Senior)
Rexx continued his winning ways and defeated Messiah’s Stevens for the 2nd time this season to claim his 2nd straight regional championship. He is W&L’s first 2x Regional Champion. He is 30-3 this season, including a win over a returning All-American, and 24-1 since returning from our trip to Florida!
197 Brad Basham (Sophomore)
Brad did not place at the regional tournament, losing a heartbreaking overtime match in the consolation round. However, he took a big step forward this season, placing 3rd at the Conference tournament, and placing at every other tournament during the season. He finishes with a 25-17 record.
285 Clay Chadwick (Sophomore)
Clay’s quarterfinal match was one of the toughest of the tournament. He was controlling the entire match and was winning up to the last seconds against the #1 seed, before giving up 2 takedowns in the final 20 seconds of the match. He failed to bounce back and was eliminated on Friday evening. However, Clay also made tremendous progress this season, placing 3rd in the Centennial Conference and finishing with a 24-19 record.